ESTACIO: Come, Lord Jesus, come

December 13, 2022

(Photo by Michelle Eisterhold)

It can be challenging to prepare for the coming of Christ Jesus during the Advent Season. It was only a few weeks ago that Black Friday was being marketed. And every year, it seems as if the Christmas lights and decorations at my nearby mall are coming up earlier.

As Catholics, we are in the world, but we are not of it. This means we do things differently. We prepare during this time — when the world may be fully celebrating Christmas already — by purposefully halting the full-out celebration and patiently waiting.

How can Catholics intentionally anticipate the coming of Christ Jesus? We can make more room in our hearts, lives and families for Him. As early as the fifth century, the Advent Season was penitential. It used to begin on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, and it lasted for 40 days. It was called “St. Martin’s Lent,” but slowly, throughout the centuries, the fasting and penance were reduced. Today, only Lent and all Fridays of the year are listed as days and times of penance (CCC 1250).

Liturgically, we can clearly see the remnants of Advent as a penitential season. The Gloria is not sung during the Mass, and the colors of the Advent Season — purple and rose — are the same as the Season of Lent.

Celebrating Advent as a family in a very intentional way is more important than ever. Our office serves young people in the Archdiocese, and it has become painstakingly evident that they are hurting. Depression, self-harm and isolation are historically high, and these symptoms are part of other important issues, such as the breakdown of the family, that also need to be addressed. What does our society need? We need the reason for this season: Christ Jesus!

Because we are not of the world, we choose to live differently and joyfully. Thus, I would invite you to make more room for Christ Jesus by making this Advent Season penitential through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Unite your sufferings to the suffering of Christ Jesus on the cross for all those in need. Think about the young people in our local Church or the poor on the streets of Houston.

Here are some ideas to help you be less so that you can make more room for Christ Jesus this upcoming Christmastide:
Prayer: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is cry of recognition and of love, embracing trial and joy.” (CCC 2258)
- Go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation before Christmas.
- Use Sacred Scripture and meditate on the Incarnation.

Fasting: “The fourth precept (‘You shall observe days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church’) ensures the times of… penance prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us to acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.” (CCC 2043)
- Abstain from eating meat on Fridays.
- Spend less time on social media or your phone.

Almsgiving: “Giving alms to the poor is a witness of fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice to God.” (CCC 2462)
- Find a group at your parish that serves the homeless and help them.
- Accompany a family that is having a hard time and give them alms.

To be clear, Advent is different from Lent. The former is a joyful preparation and penitential waiting for the Nativity of the Lord, while the latter is a more intense and prolonged time of penance focused on the Passion and Death of the Lord.

As Catholics, fasting and feasting have always gone together. We fast for 40 days of Lent to feast for the 50 days of the Easter Season. Let us use the rest of Advent to make more room for the Christ Child by saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come” through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.

Let us give our hearts to God in patient and joyful anticipation so that we can fully feast and celebrate during the Octave and the Season of Christmas.

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people: Come and set us free, Lord our God. 

Dunn Estacio is an associate director with the Office of Adolescent Catechesis and Evangelization.